Royal Commission report day 45 page 11

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The Royal Commission evidence for 10/8/1881

(full text transcription)

(see also introduction to day 45)

[[../../people/peD_G/gravesMLA.html|The Honorable J. H. Graves, M.L.A.,]] giving evidence

15494 By the Commission— Do you mean to infer that they were instructed to take a course precisely opposite?— Well I would ask you now to see the telegrams of that date. The Secretary will no doubt have the telegrams. My impression is that if a body of police had been sent in the first instance to the scene of the murders at the Wombat Ranges , where the Kellys were, and had followed them down the only track, they would go home immediately after the murders, it is extremely probable they would have been overtaken. They would have been caught between the place of the murders and the place where the pack-horse was found in the Warby Ranges in November—I think the 7th of November. I am also of opinion that at the robbery at Euroa, if the police had been on the spot immediately upon the knowledge being acquired of the robbery, that it would have been impossible for them to get any distance without being able to pick them up, because they had to travel back again to Strathbogie Ranges during the night. I wish now to read some extracts from letters which I have no hesitation in using; but I would like the names of my informants, at present, for safety to them, to be left out. This is an extract from a letter dated 5th April 1881, and directed to me:— “I do not know whether you would consider the evidence I could give respecting the Euroa bank robbery, as showing great tardiness on the part of Mr. Nicolson in pursuing the robbers on that occasion. I will sketch it briefly, and you can call for it or not, as you think fit. I was in Euroa on the evening of the bank robbery, attending a committee meeting held at the hotel, some 30 yards from the bank. About 9 30 p.m. the landlord said he thought something was wrong at the bank, as there were no lights about. On going there we found that the place had been robbed. Shortly after the station-master came in and said he had received information that Faithfull's Creek station had been stuck up, and that the banker's family had been taken there from the bank. I proposed beating the town for volunteers to rescue them. The one constable stationed there, by name Anderson , said it was impracticable, owing to there being no firearms in the place. He said he intended going by the 9.50 p.m. luggage train (just due) to Benalla, to carry the information. I told him his duty was to stop, and any one could carry the information. He was, however, determined to go. I told the station-master, in the constable's presence, that I intended riding out to Faithfull's Creek station, which is 46 miles on the railway from Euroa to Benalla, and if the robbers had left I would obtain all the latest information about them; I would then signal the train and give them this information, which could be acted on by the Benalla police. I heard the station-master tell the engineer to stop on being signalled. I then galloped to Faithfull's Creek, found that the robbers had left about an hour previously, in the direction of Benalla; ascertained the number of men and the horses they had with them; I then rushed to meet the train just approaching, signalled it, but, instead of stopping, it went the faster. This train reached Benalla at 11 p.m. , therefore the Benalla police received information of the Euroa robbery just two hours after the robbers had left Faithfull's Creek station. Now, how did they utilize this early information? First, it took the police four hours to get to Euroa; they arrived at 3 a.m. ; then they had to wait seven hours (until 10 a.m. ) for Mr. Nicolson . The next three hours were spent poking about. This exertion, according to Mr. Nicolson, so wearied his men that they had to rest At 7.30 p.m. precisely they left Euroa in pursuit of the robbers, just giving them 22 ½ hours' start, when, at most, they need only have had until daybreak, or about 66 hours. Trusting you will not scruple to employ me in any way you may desire—“ That letter is written by a man I have known for a great number of years. I am perfectly satisfied with the correctness of his statement, and believe it to be true. I have a series of letters, but I will only trouble you with the most important ones. I have hundreds of them, of all descriptions.

15495 May I ask whether the writer of that letter could not have been produced here to give evidence direct?— Yes, he has no objection to do so; but why I mention it is my having given corroborative reasons why I believe this statement to be true. The man is a schoolmaster, right in the centre of the Kelly country. He was a schoolmaster at Euroa, and of course it would not be pleasant for him. He is a man of undoubted character, and the statements made might subject him to some inconvenience. With regard to the letter produced yesterday on the application of Mr. Nicolson—[inserted above]—at the time I got that letter I took it up to the district, and I did not bring the matter therein stated before Parliament for a similar reason—that the publicity of those matters might retard the police and inconvenience them; but I made enquiry as to the allegations made therein, and I was quite satisfied, from information I received, that the greater number of the statements were accurate. However, after ascertaining that they were accurate, to the best of my belief; I handed the letter to Captain Standish, and said I would prefer not making it public, as I was requested, in Parliament, and as I was quite sure, having received that information, he would endeavor to remedy any defects there were, and make the outlaws amenable to law. I forgot to mention, upon receipt of that telegram I spoke of, about the men in Mansfield not having arms, I went to Captain Standish, at the Melbourne Club, and told him of the telegram—showed it to him—and I remonstrated with him for not having sent police immediately in the search party, and expressed to him that there would have been, in my humble judgment, no difficulty in the way of having a large body of police much earlier on the scene of the murders, instead of entrusting the search to private individuals, and that an armed party of desperadoes in the mountains could have shot off any number of civilians if they chose.

15496 Is that letter, produced yesterday, the letter you forwarded to Wallace the schoolmaster?— Yes, but I am not sure that I forwarded it to Wallace.....

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